Saturday, January 18, 2014

My Review of Strange Fire by John MacArthur

I was excited about reading the book (and reviewing it here), even though his conference by the same name caused quite a stir among many Pentecostals and Charismatics.

As I start this review, let me state I am very, very familiar with John MacArthur's teachings and have read many of his other books and listened to countless sermons of his.  Most of his material is great and I love it; except when he gets on the subject of spiritual gifts, tongues, healing and miracles, and on those subjects I lovingly and respectfully disagree.

When MacArthur stays with scripture, he's an awesome teacher.  But when he closes his mind to charismatics, he also throws out any scriptures that support Charismatics'/Pentecostals' view of miracles as still being for today as well as tongues, etc.

In about 90% or more of this book MacArthur's examples refer to the Word of Faith, TBN or some other false sect of the Charismatic/Pentecostal movement.

Even with the shortcomings cited in the Charismatic/Pentecostal movement, it is usually no more flawed than any other non-charismatic (even cessationist) ministry or church.  Man is flawed and if you look deep enough no one is perfect.  But on the other hand, I am thankful for the many ministers that do represent the Lord in a God glorifying way.

Throughout this book he calls "tongues" gibberish and irrational blabber.  Wow! That seems quite disrespectful and irreverent to call something Charismatics look at as from the HOLY Spirit!  He also calls all healings or miracles that happen when the sick are prayed for as fake. Really, are ALL healing's and miracles that happen in a prayer meeting or through the laying on of hands fake?

Note: I do believe John MacArthur believes God can sovereignly heal or do a miracle today, but it has nothing to do with the gift of healings or miracles as taught among Charismatics.

Based on my reading of this book,  he could have more accurately named it, "Charismatic Chaos II – Exposing the Word of Faith Movement (TBN) in the 21st Century".

All that being said, since he does share some real concerns, I found his book somewhat helpful.  I also found it informative on how a cessationist's mind set works.

Interestingly, it has made me think all the more how precious it is to me to be a conservative Continuationist.

John MacArthur is a wonderful teacher when he sticks to the Bible passages and stays away from this issue, and very possibly a Biblical view called Continuationism as believed by Charismatics.

My recommendations on this subject from a Continuationist's view would be Wayne Grudem's book  "Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine" (Covers many doctrines), or his book "Bible Doctrine" (abridged from Systematic Theology).

Also two book that I know of, but have not read, that have been written by Charismatics as a response to John MacArthur's "Strange Fire" are "Authentic Fire" by Michael Brown and "Holy Fire" by R.T. Kendall.

Disclosure: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review blogger's program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Short Devotional: God's Pruning Process

I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. John 15:1, 2

As we look into the pruning process I must share my wife's pruning ability. When I first saw the pruning work of my wife, Joyce, I thought she killed the plant or at least stunted its growth forever.  Boy, was I wrong! It grew back and looked great!  Now, if my wife does a heavy duty pruning I trust her, as I have seen that her pruning is helping the plant.  Also, after my wife first prunes a plant it is rather ugly, but given time it turns beautiful. 

Most of you know that trees need pruning in order to grow properly and bear fruit. Pruning involves cutting off the dead branches and cutting back the living branches, both to shape the tree or vine and to stimulate growth.  So much more with our heavenly Father, as He is the perfect pruner, when He prunes us we know that He knows what He's doing and the end result is you will be more beautiful in God's vineyard. According to this verse, pruning sounds to me like a painful process! However, as painful as it can be to go through this “process,” it is necessary and worthwhile. Think about it, the branch that bears NO FRUIT is history, but it is the fruit bearing branch that he PRUNES so that it will bear MORE FRUIT.  As Christians you are pruned NOT because you have no fruit, but so you'll have even more.

Here’s why:
1. God's pruning is to get rid of stuff in our life that is not healthy.
Often we allow sin (always wrong and bad) or even weights (not necessarily bad/sin, but not beneficial, something that holds us back) into our lives, and it hinders us from bearing fruit or much fruit. 
Heb. 12:11 states: " For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it."
Heb. 12:1 states: "...let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us..."

2. God’s pruning redirects our spiritual growth.
Each branch that is cut stops the plant's growth in one direction and redirects it in another. Sometimes God shuts a door in one area because He wants to refocus our efforts, energy and gifting in another – often one where He knows we’ll be more effective. If we exist to bring God glory and build His kingdom, it’s not so much about where I want to go and what I want to do, but where He can use me the most.

3. God’s pruning improves the quantity and quality of fruit in our lives.
Pruning at the right time and in the right place can actually increase the number of shoots produced by a plant, thus, increasing its yield. A temporary decrease in an area of your life will actually bring the increase! Don’t give up on the vision God has given you, but press on. Your breakthrough could be right around the next corner.

Jesus desires for us to bear fruit for him, we start with fruit, then MORE fruit and then MUCH fruit.  
I like what I have heard stated that we find ourselves in one of three states right now.

Either we are:
1. Being pruned
2. Healing/recovering after being pruned or
3. We are in full bloom.
(But don’t get too excited if you are in full bloom, because you are about to be pruned again.)

If you are a Christian, you are going to be pruned. Count on it. None of us are immune to it. You may not be in the pruning process right now…you may be in full bloom, enjoying a relatively easy life. Praise God! Enjoy it! But don’t get too comfortable…the scissors are going to come your way again!

*Note: Some of the content of this devotion came from: